Ring the bells! Do a dance! Joy Harjo, a national treasure, has become the first
Native American to serve as our nation’s official poet.
I’m overjoyed by this news! I can think of no one who’s mo better to be appointed to the position of poet laureate at these times than Joy Harjo. A member of the Muscogee Creek Nation and a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Harjo is a renaissance woman: poet, visual artist, dancer and saxophone player. She’s a formidable voice for justice for the First People of this land, the earth, and all beings. An ambassador of healing and transformation, Harjo uses poetry to connect and form bridges.
The essential task of the U.S. poet laureate is to endeavor “to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry.” That’s the point. Or the least of it. Because for Harjo, poetry constitutes nothing less than “an immense conversation of the soul.”
Firmly rooted in heart-wisdom, Harjo’s poetry is fiercely compassionate, loving and provocative. She writes with a clarity that encourages while calling us to account at the same time. She does so skillfully, with a borderless imagination.
As poet laureate Harjo wants to “…bring the contribution of poetry of the tribal nations to the forefront and include it in the discussion of poetry…This country is in need of deep healing. We’re in a transformational moment in national history and earth history, so whichever way we move is going to absolutely define us.”
Here’s a wee taste of her work:
Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (excerpt)
I am the holy being of my mother’s prayer and my father’s song
—Norman Patrick Brown, Dineh Poet and Speaker
- SET CONFLICT RESOLUTION GROUND RULES:Recognize whose lands these are on which we stand.
Ask the deer, turtle, and the crane.
Make sure the spirits of these lands are respected and treated with goodwill.
The land is a being who remembers everything.
You will have to answer to your children, and their children, and theirs—
The red shimmer of remembering will compel you up the night to walk the perimeter of truth for understanding.
As I brushed my hair over the hotel sink to get ready I heard:
By listening we will understand who we are in this holy realm of words.
Do not parade, pleased with yourself.
You must speak in the language of justice.
By Joy Harjo from Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings
Give yourself a gift….read, talk about and share her poems. You can learn more here: http://joyharjo.com/
* “Crazy Brave” is the title of Harjo’s memoir.